Alice Macdonald
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Hairs on the lens
Female body hair on the screen
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Most Western women only feel acceptable to themselves and to society if their bodies are largely hair-free. The cinema is particularly responsible for the confirmation and perpetuation of this convention of femininity. This chapter explores how film makes use of the two extremes of female body hair: the idealised hairless female and the vilified hairy female. First, it outlines the normalisation of female depilation by looking at the cultural and symbolic meanings that are attached to body hair, and then the artistic heritage from which the ‘hairless ideal’ has sprung and which film perpetuates. Next, the chapter considers how female body hair is employed as a negative signifier in two screen texts based on the novel The Life and Loves of a She Devil, written by the feminist author Fay Weldon. Finally, it discusses the viability of presenting female body hair on the screen in a positive way by looking at facial hair as signifier of the ‘freak’ and of sado-masochism, body hair as signifier of the ‘beast within’ and unreal hair or wigs as signifiers of sexual deviance.

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The last taboo

Women and body hair

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